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Dr Susan Giblin, Sports programme manager on key factors for protecting players

With the 6-Nations well underway we are delighted to share an insight from Dr Susan Giblin, Sports programme manager at Portobello Institute on the role of sports science in protecting players and the importance of tailored nutrition and recovery.

Fixture-scheduling, travelling, training and preparation are all key considerations for ensuring that Ireland’s players maintain optimal game-readiness for the entire duration of the competition (and indeed for the remainder of the season). This often involves continuing to train throughout the competition period to avoid any losses in strength, speed or conditioning, whilst also allowing for post-match recovery to reduce injury and to optimise performance.

Ultimately, this is where science comes to the fore in sport. The support team behind the players will have carefully calculated each player’s individual requirements using a combination of metrics (both qualitative and quantitative). This will establish the demand placed on every player during each match while establishing the optimal recovery protocols to return each player to game-ready before the next match.

Key physical-preparation factors that all teams will be monitoring closely throughout the 6 Nations is nutrition.  As with all elements of training, nutritional needs must be tailored to suit the individual. Players will have different and varied tastes in the foods he likes or dislikes as well as very different metabolic demands (according to position, body type) so there is careful preparation and fine-tuning of nutritional intake. This is to ensure that scrum-halfs maintain lean-mass while props do not loose muscle bulk which is essential throughout competition especially as the players weekly training expenditure will vary depending on the upcoming fixtures.    As well as food-intake, all players body weight and urine output will be monitored daily to ensure that hydration is maintained throughout the competition.  

In order to cater effectively for each player's recovery, a balance between the art and science of coaching is required. In addition to playing-age, previous injury history, positional-demands, opposition and the playing-demands placed on the player, practitioners must understand how each player will respond psychologically after a game. Taking into consideration how a hard-loss (on the opening weekend against England) versus a difficult win (with an unimpressive win against Scotland) will impact the players mental status, motivation for recovery and focus going into the next week.  

With the first two games under their belt and steady, consistent progression as well as a week to recover and refine strategies after the Scotland games, it is hoped that Ireland will play to their potential against Italy this Saturday.

Throughout 2018 Dr. Susan Giblin, sports programme manager at Portobello Institute has been heavily involved in both the creation and development of innovative new sports degrees at Portobello. For details call us on  01 8920041.

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